Chennai: “Politics is not new to me. I have accompanied my thatha and appa to several meetings. I follow all political happenings very closely. Today, I am just a member of the party and go about my work to strengthen it,” says actor and son of DMK president M K Stalin, Udhayanidhi Stalin.
The grandson of former chief minister M Karunanidhi, Udhayanidhi’s passion for cinema is obvious for it is in his genes. He inherited his grandfather’s legacy and chose to produce films initially. He soon ventured into acting and began a successful journey with Oru Kal Oru Kannadi. It was followed by a string of successful outings as hero that included films like Manithan and Nimir. A busy actor, producer and distributor, Udhayanidhi is also a full-time politician today. In an exclusive interview to News Today, he shared thoughts about his upcoming films, political plans and a lot more. Excerpts:
Q: How difficult is it to dabble in acting, production and politics at the same time?
A: At Red Giant Movies, we have a strong team of experts. They watch movies. Identify the best and all I have to do is finally take a decision. Similarly, we have the right set of people in our production team. And, currently, I am working in a couple of films bankrolled by other production houses. Politics is not tough since I grew up in that atmosphere. I was always amazed at the hard work of my grandfather and father: that inspires me to go meet more people.
Q: What did you learn from Karunanidhi & Stalin?
A: I don’t find much difference. Appa is hardworking. It was a privilege when my grandfather acknowledged my father as someone who spends all 24 hours for the development of the State. From my dad, I learnt to push myself hard to serve. From my grandfather, I learnt the importance to reach out to the masses and understand their needs and sufferings. He was a voracious reader. Today, reading habit has come down drastically after the advent of technology. I want to rekindle the habit. Wherever I go, people gift me books, which I donate to libraries. My love for language was nourished by my grandfather. After his meetings, he used to dictate his speech for Murasoli. On several occasions, I was the proof reader for the copies. His words always had a great impact on me.
Q: When are you entering electoral politics?
A: I was never away from politics. I have accompanied my thatha and appa to several meetings. I have been involving myself closely in politics and meeting more and more people to understand their problems. There were even rumours that I would be fielded as DMK candidate for Tiruvarur by-polls. That was because cadres, out of their love for me, filed applications in my name for the contest. I am just a member of the party and go about my work to strengthen it. It is my duty to carry the good deeds of Karunanidhi and dreams and aspirations of MK Stalin to all the people. Whatever the party asks me to do, I am ready to do it.
Q: Can you sum up the political situation in the State today?
A: It is pathetic and has gone from bad to worse. Especially the last three years have been bad. After Jayalalithaa’s demise, we see a vacuum in terms of leadership there. Lots of drama is happening between the AIADMK and BJP to stitch an alliance. The State party is dancing to the tunes of the BJP.
Q: How do you handle criticism?
A: If it is made in the right manner, I would lend ear to it. After OKOK, when many said I dance bad, I took it as a challenge and worked day and night to get it right. Today, on social media, there are a few comments made with the sole intention to disturb you. For someone who comes from a political family, criticism is not new.
Q: Is your upcoming release Kanne Kalaimanae an off-beat entertainer?
A: It is a rural tale. A different genre. A Seenu Ramasamy film. Thankfully, my performance in Nimir (a remake of Malayalm hit Maheshinte Prathikaaram) convinced him to do such a film with me. Priyadharshan insisted that I look more real and render a live performance in Manithan. Similarly, Kanne Kalaimane will have no artificial elements. I have learnt a lot working with Priyan and Seenu Ramasamy.
Q: Are you keen on doing village-based stories?
A: Saravanan Irukka Bayamen was targetted at B and C Centres. It was a typical Ezhil’s commercial entertainer. But a film like Nimir or Kanne Kalaimanae will have class elements in it. Whatever I try to do, I surrender myself fully to my director. I just want to deliver what they want. I would say that I want to come out of my comfort zone. After OKOK , many thought I would fit only for one particular genre. May be a cocktail of comedy, romance, a kuthu number post-interval. I took it as a challenge and today I am here exploring various other possibilities. It all depends on how hard you work and the dedication you show towards your work.
Q: How your life changed post-OKOK’s success?
A: My confidence level increased. But it threw many challenges. I had fear standing before the camera then. But today, I have started to enjoy my work. I feel more relaxed now. I am glad that my films are received well by the people.
Q: Will Udhay bid goodbye to cinema for politics?
A: I don’t think so. I can manage both. I would love to do two or three films a year after carefully selecting the scripts that come my way. As a DMK cadre, I will always be there to contribute towards strengthening my party.
Q: How do you see the status of Tamil film industry today?
A: Sadly, it is ridden with lots of diseases. Artistes salary have gone up several-fold in the last eight years. Above all, piracy has emerged an open threat to survival of the film industry. It is time some strong decisions are arrived at and ensure the industry is saved.